Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Oh Say, What is Truth?

 There is so much political unrest, right now and my mind has been engaged constantly with thoughts about what happened at the Capitol Building last week. 

I have vacillated between hope for the future and utter despair and anger that it was allowed to happen. I question everything and I've combed all information at my disposal to find the truth about what happened. Since everyone has a tainted opinion, it's always difficult to get to the core of everything, but I think I discovered the problem: 

People were believing a lie. 

The president lied and his followers believed him, anyway. He's lied for years, and they still believe him. He gets caught lying, and they justify and excuse his behavior. His lies have harvested division, hatred, and fear --which we think culminated in what happened last week, but I have a sinking feeling there is more to come. 

It makes me wonder how we got to this place, how people who claim to follow God could believe in such obvious hypocrisy and deceit. How could they not see his lies? What happened? But more importantly: what can I do to make sure I don't fall for it in the future? 

I've been pondering about this and I've made a list of sources of truth and in the order of which I use them to find what I'm looking for... this might help you! If it doesn't, that's okay. I'm mostly writing this for myself, anyway. 

First, we seek the truth from God. We seek personal revelation through the Holy Ghost. This is the ultimate place to find the truth because "if any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God" is not some kind of nice idea --it's real! The very first place to find the truth is with God. What does He want me to do? What does He have to say about everything. There's a caveat with this type of truth, though. How can I know I'm receiving the correct revelations? Well, I ask myself these questions: 

  • Am I keeping my covenants? 
  • Am I repenting every day? 
  • Do I have the Spirit with me? 
  • Am I being obedient to the commandments? 
If I can answer yes, sincerely, to these questions, then chances are good I can trust that communication with God is open and real. Here's a great article from our prophet about how this all works. 

Second: I search for truth from Prophets and Apostles. What is the prophet saying about what's happening right now? What are they saying about elections, racism, communication, pandemics, etc? If I don't know, then I need to find out! Here are some examples of what prophets and apostles have been saying: 
  • Racism is evil
  • We accept the results of elections
  • The Pandemic is real, we're having home-centered church, we need to follow local leaders about what we need to do to help end the pandemic, etc. 
  • We need to have faith and hope and continuously rely on Jesus Christ
Third: What are the scriptures saying? When we read the scriptures, we are able to understand the plan of salvation better, understand our purpose more, and can more easily recognize truth and error. 

"If you have not heard His voice speaking to you lately, return with new eyes and new ears to the scriptures. They are our spiritual lifeline." ~Elder Robert D. Hales

Fourth: Experts and Scientists -- if people have spent decades learning about a subject that I don't know too much about, I think it's okay to trust their judgment. For example, I have trusted doctors to treat me and my family when we are sick. I have had amazing therapists help me, many OBGYN doctors and midwives deliver my babies, and an amazing surgeon repaired my broken nose. I've seen ENT doctors get legos out of my son's ear, diagnose scary diseases, and treat my children with medicine that helped stave off infections. 

I've also allowed experts to teach me about writing, music, art, philosophy, and literature. I've listened to experts teach me about technology, nature, the weather, and animals. I've learned from experts since I was a tiny child --in fact, you could say we all learn from experts. 

Scientists amaze me because they do their best to seek knowledge, and then apply that knowledge carefully in our society. When they discover they might be wrong about something, they adjust. Science is seeking --it's always looking for the truth. They don't get angry when they get it wrong, they use it as a chance to do better. To demand perfection from leaders, scientists, and experts right away is to be always disappointed. I feel like I'm the same way. I don't always get everything right. But I'm trying to learn and grow. And not every scientist or expert will be correct because their integrity is corrupted. This is also true! But I know for a fact that God has placed experts and scientists into my life to help me. The good ones far outweigh the bad ones. And if you're just not sure --that's when you go back to step one and seek personal inspiration and revelation to know whether or not an expert or scientist is lying to you. 

So, where can truth be found? God, Prophets, Scriptures, Experts... honestly, truth isn't too difficult to find. We just need to know how to do it, and then run away from everything else. 😉

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

I Published More Poetry!

I just published my second collection of poetry. 

It's called, Carve a Place for Me, and is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook (Kindle). Go here to see it and purchase it, if you'd like! 

My other collection of poetry, Give Me a Fragment, is also available on Amazon. It's on sale until I decide to quietly end the sale (ha!). The link for that one is right here. 

Or just go to my Amazon author page, here, and you'll see both books. 

Look! An author photo of me! :) 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Home MTC: Unexpected Blessings

My Aunt Melanie asked me to write this. She read about somebody else's experiences with having a missionary go through the MTC at home, and she thought it would be good if I wrote down the things that our family learned, too! Having Ashley home for the MTC was a really cool experience, and so I agreed to her request. It's taken me way too long to get it written, but here it is:  

This past summer --thanks to the pandemic --we were one of the many families who got to experience having a Home MTC for our missionary. It was unexpected and I was nervous about how it would play out. Our missionary is our oldest daughter, and we have a large family of 8 children! How could we keep the home reverent enough so our missionary could learn how to be an effective missionary? I was determined to make our home a special place for her, but I realized that our efforts could also fail. Did I have enough determination and faith to see this through? 

Gratefully, we did not fail and our daughter had a good experience! But I learned a lot of lessons, many of which still have me pondering. 

1. Being Set Apart Matters

When our daughter was set apart as a missionary by our Stake President, it was a very simple, yet spiritual event. We had all of our children dress in their Sunday best and gather in our living room. Our Stake President came into our home and spoke to us for a while. When he set our daughter apart as a missionary and gave her a blessing, we could feel the Spirit so strongly in our home! Her face was radiant when it was over, and there was a lot of hugging (mostly on my part). 

She started the MTC the next day, and within a few days, she told me that she couldn't believe the difference she felt --the Spirit was with her all the time, and so very strongly, too. She could sense the difference and it made her study time a lot more focused. She could feel the difference from before her setting apart and after --the Priesthood really was working! This gave her confidence and a lot of incredible moments of increased testimony as she was learning, especially when the language classes got difficult. 

2. You Can Feel the Spirit in Chaos

Our home wasn't as quiet and settled as I had hoped. I didn't suddenly stop yelling when the kids were loud and misbehaving and the toddler didn't just stop crying or screaming when he was upset. The kids still had moments of contention! Our family life had to continue and we had some of the same struggles we had before... but this time, it didn't seem to last as long. I think we were all more conscious of how our behavior could make the Spirit leave. A few times, our daughter had to leave the room because the Spirit left, and she felt uncomfortable. This was good for me because it helped me to recognize when the Spirit would be offended and need to flee. 

But what was remarkable to me was how many times she told me that the chaos of children didn't mean the Spirit left. It was only during moments of pure contention --and sometimes the chaos of a family isn't contentious! It's just loud, and boisterous; it's busy and full of all kinds of movement. This taught me a great lesson about how the Spirit can communicate with us, regardless of where we might be at the time. If we are doing our best and choosing to keep trying, the Holy Ghost will be there to guide us every step of the way. 

3. Our Daughter was Happy

The change that came over our daughter was very quiet and gradual, but we noticed how happy she became! Her personality didn't alter, and she was still the same person, but the light that came into her life and the attitude she carried with her was absolutely more positive and joyful. As she was learning the gospel and keeping the mission rules, we could see that her interactions with her siblings improved ten-fold. She was quick to forgive, chose to spend time with them, and much more eager to help around the house whenever she could. I was so impressed by her desire to serve the family! She had always been a kind and service-oriented person before, but it was another level of detail-finding that permeated our entire household. 

She was learning every day about serving and loving mankind. How could it not spill over into her life and where she was living at the time? We were the blessed recipients of seeing first-hand how complete devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ can change the attitudes and actions of an individual. 

4. Added Time

Our oldest daughter had spent six months away from us before the Pandemic. She had gone to BYU as a Freshman, came home to visit for the Christmas holidays, and then returned to Provo to finish the semester before planning on returning just before her mission service. As we all know, these plans didn't quite work out! She ended up coming home by the end of March 2020 and finished her semester from home. She had received her mission call just 10 days before the pandemic hit, and so we knew when she was leaving --but everything changed. 

The blessing from this was that we got to have our daughter home with us for 4 months longer than we had anticipated! Our youngest child didn't really know her, as she left home when he was 8 months old. But as she spent those 4 months with our family, she was able to create a bond with her baby brother --one that has continued even after she left for her assignment. He knows her face and her voice, and so when she calls us on her P-Day, he gets very excited to talk with her! 

That is just one of the blessings we received having her with us for longer. Birthdays, camping trips, outings, and other memories were also made --blessings from a pandemic that we didn't know could produce anything but frustration and fear. Our extra time with her was a blessing for our entire family!

I'm so grateful that our daughter was able to still serve a mission during these difficult times. I'm grateful that she was able to do her Missionary Training at home! It was a beautiful experience, one that we won't ever forget. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

When I Grow Up

As a young girl, I always knew I would be a mother and a teacher. I felt it very strongly and often when people ask if I grew up to be what I wanted to be, the answer is very resolutely, "Yes!" 

What people might not know about me is that I've had other dreams that were not fulfilled. I decided at age 15 that I wanted to be a Concert Pianist. After three LONG months with a teacher who would have molded me into exactly that career, I quit. Practicing four hours a day on pieces I wasn't fond of kind of sealed the deal. 

Then I felt that maybe, perhaps I could still be a professional music teacher! I worked hard with other teachers (both piano and voice) and auditioned 3 different times at my university for their music program. I wanted to be a secondary choir teacher! I passed everything with flying colors --except the vocal audition. My advisor wanted me to try, again, but by that point, I was a Junior, I was married... I was done. I chose to minor in Music. 

I decided, around age 26, that I really needed to be a writer. I started writing children's books and discovered I was really bad at it. But I attended some writing conferences, I wrote posts for this blog religiously, and my poetry kicked up a notch. My essay writing was pretty top-notch and I wrote for several blogs. I got asked to speak publicly, sometimes, too. But it fizzled out when blogs became paid gigs that needed "professional" writers. 

At 37, I started teaching piano lessons, again, after a near 8 year hiatus. I joined the local music teachers association and really jumped in with both feet. 

When I was 38, I decided to go back and get my Masters Degree in Piano Pedagogy. I was going to start in the Fall of 2020! And then in early 2018, I unexpectedly got pregnant, again. 

When I turned 40 years old, I decided I was going to take my poetry very seriously. I self-published my first collection of poetry on my birthday! And it was a resounding success with my close family and close friends. During that first year, I made over $100 in sales! Except when I realized I had bought about $15 worth, myself. But you know, I hadn't done it for the money. I did it to try something scary and exciting. 

I was in the process of writing the second book when the Pandemic hit. It's still floundering, but I've done some work on it --and I keep writing poetry for my Instagram and Facebook pages. It's slow... I have, at most, 258 followers on Facebook and 199 followers on Instagram. I don't pay for ads and I don't spend loads of time on there, simply because I don't have loads of time. If I desperately needed the money, I'm sure it would be something that would consume my hours and I would be so famous, right now! HA! Because let's be real -- I don't know if I'm ever meant to be famous or widely read. I know I'll keep writing, though...

When I sit and think about all of these experiences, it's easy to get down on myself and consider myself a failure. But then I go back to what I explained in the first sentence. 

I'm a mom and a teacher. 

My 6-year-old self is beaming, right now. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Disjointed Update on my Mental Health

I went off my antidepressants in January. 

My psychiatrist and I had been talking about weaning myself off of them for the last 2 years. When I finally did it, I will admit it wasn't because I reduced them to half... then to a third... then to a quarter... I just stopped. 

It was financial. It was inconvenient to make another appointment. 

This is a HUGE no-no in the mental health world! You never go off of meds without a plan. You never miss appointments or don't make them. But I did. I couldn't really admit this to anyone (let alone, myself) until about a month, ago, because I knew I did something reckless. (And let me be clear: I do NOT recommend this method. I really don't. No matter how well it's worked out for me, I will never recommend stopping meds without a clear plan in front of you!)

I did well for the first two months. I couldn't really feel a difference, although PMS time certainly was more pronounced, emotionally. And then the Pandemic hit. I thought that maybe I would crash and burn mentally, but... I didn't! 

Truthfully, the Pandemic meant life halted and it was a silver lining for me! The stress of getting 10 people everywhere for everything was gone. School was on hiatus for several weeks and church assignments were canceled. Piano lessons were canceled. All sports were canceled. You know this, dear reader, because you live this, too. And because everything was canceled, my stress practically disappeared overnight... 

Oh, don't get me wrong! Pandemic stress was difficult, too. But for a few months, the stress was just not nearly as pronounced. We worried about hygiene and groceries and we were sad about isolation... but it just wasn't as stressful on my mind and body. Here's why: 

1. My kids were all home. Even our college-aged daughter! I knew where they were at all times and so I wasn't worried about where they were or who they were with or what they could have been doing... 
2. I didn't have to spend my time driving everyone everywhere and coordinate how to do this while teaching piano lessons and working with Brandon's schedule. 
3. My church responsibilities got significantly easier
4. The weather was phenomenal! It was the BEST Spring I had ever experienced in Kansas (our 5th Spring) and so we spent so much time outdoors. Gardening, walking in our local wilderness park, and Brandon and I would take daily walks around our yard. We also went camping! Being outside so much was good for my soul. 
5. There weren't any upcoming vacations to stress over (even though I love traveling). 
6. We had movie nights and game days and the kids learned to build really great blanket forts. 

In essence, life came to a grinding halt. 

But then... the weather turned hot, life started picking up, again... and this election year... and my stress levels have risen significantly. School started and our kids keep getting sick (mono and colds and now we're awaiting a covid test for our daughter). We were prepping our oldest for her mission and doing Home MTC, and the stress of making sure all of our kids were practicing safety in public (masks, etc.) started to wear me down. 

(I lost some significant relationships, this year, too. That was brutal and I'll write about it, later.)

I started to notice that it was really hard for about 10 days, every month. That's like half the month! But it was at PMS/Menstruation time. This makes so much sense! I've always struggled with my cycle emotionally. I don't get very many physical ailments or symptoms during my cycle --they have always been mental and emotional. I get so moody! Angry, frustrated, sad --and I cry a lot. But as my bleeding winds down, and the hormones are flushed out (literally!), I feel myself recovering. 

Which brings me to another subject that I will write about: How We Need to Stop Hating Periods (trust me, it'll be good!)

Realizing that menstruation time is when my Depression is at it's most vulnerable, I've been trying to track my period and be aware of what is happening. Knowledge is power! And having this knowledge allows me to take the time I need to be kind to myself during those weeks. 

I remember back in May, though. I had been having a rough time, and so I thought maybe I should get the antidepressants, again. I called my psychiatrist's office and they told me that because it had been a year since I had seen him, they had closed my account. WHAT THE!? Closed my account? I would have to start over by paying them money to have a consultation appointment, a paperwork appointment, and then the actual appointment. I can't afford that! It made me angry that a health service, which is supposed to help people prevent self-harm, couldn't keep a person's file open for longer than a year. I was only seeing my psychiatrist once a year as it was! Who was running this!? I was frustrated, but instead of making another appointment, I chose to carry on. 

Wise? Perhaps not. But I seem to be doing okay. In fact, I would say that the main reason I'm doing better than I would have is because of the years of therapy in my arsenal. Therapy is so invaluable! I've been able to use a lot of the things I've learned, and even though it doesn't always eradicate my anger or bad thoughts, it definitely helps me to derail the train and re-direct me to better things. I also try and practice some self-care to make sure I don't overwhelm myself.

Here are some things I do to keep my mental health in check:
1. Read the scriptures and pray daily 
2. Read books that make me happy
3. Breathe deeply
4. Give myself time-outs
5. Play the piano (for fun!)
6. Take long showers
7. Talk with good friends 
8. Date night with my husband (and some good sex ;) ) 
9. Go outside (walking when I can, although this has tapered off. I need to get back into the habit of regular exercise!)
10. Listening to good music

So, there you go. I'm not 100%, but I'm certainly not as depressed and anxious as I used to be! I'm moving forward. I might still go back on meds, one day (I will never rule them out), but for now, I'm good. 

What do you do to keep yourself mentally and emotionally healthy? 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

I'm a Republican and I'm Voting for Biden in 2020

 I'm a Republican, and I'm voting for Joe Biden. 

Some Republicans get very angry with me when I share this information, but the truth is, I'm not alone. There are a lot of us who are frustrated with POTUS and the Republicans who follow him, excuse his behavior, and defend his dishonesty. It goes beyond policy for us --it goes to the heart of democracy, morality, and decency. 

But beyond this, I've found that as I get older, I'm leaning more liberal. I've always been a moderate, politically (voting for people, rather than parties), and so I haven't been too surprised by the way my politics are changing. 

I wish we had a political party that actually embodied the things that I believe and hope for in a government. The Libertarian Party sounds like a good idea, but even they don't have all the right components and take their ideas of freedom too far, in my opinion. 

The three major reasons why people want to vote for Trump (outside of the crazy rabid fans of Trump, including (but not limited to) racists, rapists, and fascists) seem to be these: 

1. Socialism is evil 

2. Abortion: they want it illegal, no matter what

3. Freedom of Religion

I want to take the time to address each one of these --and the reason I'm doing it here, rather than on Facebook, is because discussing anything on Facebook digresses into a hailstorm of idiotic rantings (and not just from me! Ha!):

1. Socialism

Nearly every first world country in this world (and I would argue it's all of them) has a form of Socialism. There are socialist and social programs available in every government because the voice of the people want the government to help society. Taxes are collected in exchange for services. A small example would be roadwork. A large example would be education (public schools from preschool through University). We have welfare and medicare, social security, WIC, and federal parks. What most Democrats are wanting now is universal healthcare. People panic when they think about this, but after doing extensive reading on the subject (which doesn't make me an expert, just informed), it seems that if it's done correctly, socialized medicine can be a really great thing! The idea of paying a fixed rate based on my income in exchange for healthcare is amazing to me. Right now, we get to pay nearly $400 a month to have the privilege of paying a $6K deductible. This is off-set by paying into an HSA (mostly our own money), and when I remember to use it (I always feel so dumb when I forget!), it doesn't cover everything. Dealing with insurance, pre-existing conditions, whether it's been a full year or six months between visits, ER vs InstaCare vs Office visits, etc. etc, and by the end, I want to scream. What if we paid that $400 a month towards socialized medicine and then I wouldn't have the rest to worry about? That would be incredible to me! 

I know it might not be as easy as I'm making it sound, but a hybrid model of socialized medicine (or at least getting rid of insurance and making doctors/hospitals charge for what things actually cost) would be a good start. Sweden is a good example of having a very broken socialized medical program that became better once some of it was privatized, again. Our systems don't work right now --why not trying something new? Something that will hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for withholding life-saving medicine and doctors/hospitals for giving care to everyone, regardless of economic status (and race --but gosh, that's another subject for another post). 

Some people who understand economics better than me might be able to argue that socialized medicine could ruin us forever. But England, Canada, Australia, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, etc. all have socialized medicine and are doing just peachy. I don't see their economies collapsing over medicine and their people seem to be healthy. In fact, they've recovered from the Global Pandemic while we... have not. Just sayin! 

2. Abortion

I think abortion is awful. I really hate it, to be honest. But I also know that it needs to be legal, because without the legality, abortions continue in unsafe conditions. What we need is to have legal, safe, and rare abortion, and loads of educations and programs to help women. We need a society that is so enamored and grateful for human life that the idea of allowing a teenage mom, poor mom, desperate mom, or a raped mom to abort her child would be horrifying, and so we do everything we can to help her. We educate, we provide birth control, and we encourage abstinence. We make adoption services more affordable. We make maternal healthcare more affordable. We honor and respect women, we honor and respect children.

All these people screaming for Roe v Wade to be overturned are forgetting that if abortive services were illegal, then the women with ectopic pregnancies will die because the procedure to save them is abortive.  Women who have miscarriages and need D and C services will be denied them, and they will die. Most forms of birth control are abortive --how far would the law reach? What is considered an abortion? The legal ramifications wouldn't even begin to highlight the personal traumas that could ensue. Women would be terrified, men would be, too. And the truth is, it wouldn't stop abortion. It would just make it a crime, and that means putting women and doctors in jail. It would be a legal can of worms that could leak into all kinds of common-sense medical procedures. 

Abortion needs to be a last resort and it needs to be during the first trimester if at all possible. I've never met a person who truly believed all abortion should be illegal in every circumstance with zero caveats. And you know what? Most Democrats don't like abortion, either. They just don't like the results of illegal abortion, more.  

3. Freedom of Religion

Joe Biden has been a practicing Catholic his entire life. POTUS never goes to church and when he does, it's to placate and pander to the evangelical right. 

Freedom of Religion is so enmeshed into our American psyche that I can't imagine anything taking away the freedom to exercise the right to practice it. Allowing others to practice their religion, as long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others, is one of those freedoms that most (almost all?) Americans would die fighting to protect. This conspiracy idea that moderate liberals want to take away all religion is about as realistic as moderate conservatives wanting to force everyone to be a Christian. Americans value religious freedom and we will keep it --I have no doubt. 

I know not everyone agrees with me on these subjects, and that's okay. I don't struggle with differing opinions about policies, and I don't struggle with differing opinions about how to go about solving societal ills (like racism, sexism, etc.). What I do struggle with is justifying immoral and narcissistic behavior. I have never believed that the ends justified the means, and so where I get frustrated the most is watching people excuse POTUS and his behavior. His crimes (which are many) are irrefutable and the proof is found everywhere (quite easily found, too!). But for whatever reason (the ends), people are willing to die on their moral hills in order to elect him, again. This is where I worry and where I have lost respect for people. Some of the greatest people I have ever known have fallen all over themselves to justify and excuse POTUS and the way he speaks, thinks, and acts --just because of his political party. I find it so bizarre and it's honestly very confusing to me. And, well, it is what it is. People are going to vote for who they want to vote for --and honestly? I'm just so grateful people are voting! GO VOTE! 

Who are you voting for? Is it based on policy, personality, or morality for you? (It's okay if you disagree with me, but please be respectful. I don't expect very many comments, since I'm still not advertising my blog on social media, but just in case you decide to comment, dear reader, please be kind. I'm not above deleting comments at this juncture. The end. )

Monday, September 28, 2020

Schooling the Offspring

I have always sent my children to public school. I love that there have always been so many options for my friends, though --some homeschool, some do private school, some have chosen charter schools and a hybrid of all of the above. I don't think I've ever met a parent that didn't carefully choose what was best for their family and their children. Education is important to most people, and it's evident by how they oversee their children's schooling. And public school just works well for our family! We've found great success and our children have all thrived. 

But man, this Pandemic is rough! 

My kids are in a hybrid model for public schooling. Monday-Wednesday, they are at home, learning online. Thursday and Friday, they are in school, learning in-person. It was quite the adjustment at first, but gratefully, the kinks have been worked out pretty well. 

Here's what I love about this model of learning: 

1. My kids only get up earlier than 7:30AM twice a week 

2. The state of Kansas finally changed the requirements for remote learning days! For the first several weeks, we had to submit 6 forms (6 kids in school!) listing the 390 minutes of schoolwork they did every day. Then I had to sign it. Granted, most teachers (especially Elementary) made sure we understood that some of that time could be filled with playtime, recess, lunch, music lessons, reading books together, etc. But it was still such a pain in the rear! But if we didn't submit these forms, the kids would be seen as absent. SO DUMB. The push-back was rough, and now the kids just have to attend Zoom meetings with their teachers twice a day on remote days. 2 meetings, each day, for 20 minutes each, versus these forms? I'll take it!! 

3. Some of my kids work quickly and some work slowly. It's nice having this extra time to get assignments finished and not feeling the pressure of in-person. 

4. I still get two days with just me and baby boy! When he's napping, that means I get ALONE TIME! Wha!? It's awesome and I cherish it. I deserve it, too. 

5. They've given every child in the school district iPads to use for their schooling. We couldn't have done any of this if it wasn't for this! 

6. When my kids are sick (three of my sons have had mono, this month!), the kids don't miss school! They can still do some work and attend zoom meetings.  

Here's what I don't like: 

1. Inconsistency in the schedule because we think we have free time. Ha! Honestly, it's hard to adjust to being at-home because I've never homeschooled. I've never really adopted this model of education and keeping us all on task is sometimes difficult. I'm trying to be flexible and just make it work as best as I can. 

2. The constant fear of covid. Not just getting the disease, but it coming into full-force and shutting everything down, again. My kids are finally back in music lessons, sports, activities, etc. and I would hate for everything to be shut down. So, we do our best to keep ourselves healthy. But it's been hard! 

3. Not having more days to myself. I know that sounds selfish, but it is what it is. *shrug*

How are you doing school during this Pandemic? What's working? What's really difficult? 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Updates, Updates

 There have been a lot of changes, around here. That happens when you neglect a blog that used to be your life-blood! I blame social media. Nobody wants to read essays, anymore, unless it proves their political views to be correct. 

Here are the highlights over the last 18 months: 

I turned 40! I published my first book of poetry (you can find it, here). 

Brandon and I celebrated 20... and then 21 years of marriage. 

Our oldest daughter graduated from high school, went to BYU, came home during the pandemic to finish her spring semester, and then became a missionary! She was called to Resistencia, Argentina, but due to the pandemic, she did home MTC and then was reassigned to San Antonio, TX, where she is currently serving. In fact, just this past week, my husband and I went to San Antonio to be with her as she went to the Temple for the first time. It was an amazing experience! 

Our second oldest will graduate from high school this coming school year! She is in the process of applying for colleges and has finally narrowed down her choices: BYU, BYU-ID, Yale, UPenn, and Carnegie Mellon. She has many options and has worked really hard to be able to kind of pick and choose where she goes for her secondary education route. 

Our oldest son is now a Junior! He plays football and had kind of a bummer year, this year. He contracted a pretty severe case of mono and has been unable to play in any games, this season. Luckily, he's on the mend and was just cleared to play last week. He's also getting his driver's license next week (wha?) and is busy with school and work (both he and his sister work at Chick-fil-a, just as our oldest did!). 

Son numero dos is in 8th grade this year and he is part of a string quartet (cello!). He also plays football, but thanks to sharing a room with his older brother (or something), he has contracted mono and won't be able to play for the rest of the season. 

Our 6th grade son got braces this year and is still playing the violin. He wanted to play club football, but we weren't able to sign him up in time. He spends a lot of extra time cleaning bounce houses for our bounce house business (Flint Hills Rental!), and although he's not a huge fan, he doesn't mind because he gets paid. Ha!

Then we have our 3rd grader! He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints back in March, literally one week before the world shut down (well, the United States). He also contracted mono, but bounced back from it rather quickly! 

Then baby girl started Kindergarten this Fall. I'm not sure how this is possible, since she was born just a few years, ago (haha). She loves being able to ride the bus with her big brothers and experience school --even though it looks so different from what we're used to. Our school district offered online-only school or a hybrid model. We chose the hybrid and so our kids only go to in-person school 2 days a week and the other 3 days are remote learning from home. They provided every student in the entire district with their own iPads (which is awesome!) and so all of our kids are able to do their work and attend their zoom meetings without much inconvenience. So far, so good!

Baby boy is almost 2 years old. IT IS CRAZY. I mean, I just gave birth to him last month, right? He's a fireball of energy and keeps me on my toes. He still nurses at night and naptime, and so he doesn't sleep consistently through the night, yet. He is sweet, though, and I adore his little face. As difficult as the transition was to add him to our family, we can't imagine our lives without him. He's been a true blessing! 

Hubby continues to work really hard. He teaches 5 classes at Kansas State University in the College of Business, helps run operations and tutors/teaches for an ACT Prep Course company, helps sell software for another company (customer service based), writes articles, teaches online early morning seminary for our stake, runs our bounce house business, is on a city board, helps run a local entrepreneur-based non-profit group, is in the running for a big community project and does the grocery shopping. And mows the lawn, and usually cooks dinner. He's kind of tired. LOL 

I am teaching 12 piano students, oversee the kids' remote learning, and I'm the Primary President in our ward.  I run the household, spend way too much time on social media, dream and read a lot, and wonder why I don't have more time in the day. Ha! But honestly, I am busy. It's hard to list what I do every day, but it includes a lot of dishes, children, and survival. 

We haven't done a ton of travel over the last few years, but we have managed a few family reunions, and we've been able to host family here in Kansas. Life is still difficult and we are making our way through the very best that we can. 

I'm hoping that I might be able to use this blog to write, again. I feel the need to start expressing myself through writing again, and I need to practice. I've gotten out of the habit and I feel that my abilities are waning, a little bit... I also need a place to vent my views about politics, religion, social matters, and my personal journey. Since this blog has never been popular (and I don't see myself sharing much from it on social media), I feel it might be a somewhat safe place to write. We shall see! I've always loved this little blog of mine. It'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. 

Have a great weekend, dear reader! 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

February Happiness

It is February, which means we have five birthdays in the course of 20 days. This year, we have some big and important birthdays! 

#4 is turning 12. 
#2 is turning 16.
#7 is turning 4. 
#6 is turning 7 (guess that's not huge, but how is it that he's already 7 years old?!). 

And I am turning 40! FORTY. For-ty. 4-0 years of age. Forty years old. (Truth is, I deserve to turn 40! I've lived a lot of life and I deserve to turn 40. Bring on my forties! Huzzah for still being alive!)

Also, in the midst of the birthday celebrations, we have a concerto competition (I have four students competing) and our oldest daughter will find out if she was accepted into BYU or not (the anxiety is high around here!). Add into this that I started teaching all my piano students again (since the birth) and we have a new baby (he's almost 2 months!). Don't forget Valentine's Day! And parent-teacher conferences! 

I'm also working on my book (no details, yet, sorry!). 

If that wasn't enough, I feel pulled into the political climate, too. Between building a wall, a government shut-down, third trimester abortion (may God save us all), vaccinations, and all the ridiculous shouting going on, it's hard to stay positive. 

I am desperately trying to be a loving and supportive wife, an attentive and kind mother, a service-minded friend, and still take care of myself, too. 

IT IS EXHAUSTING. All of it. And yet... 

I am happy! Exhausted, saying-all-the-wrong-things, sometimes wanting to give up, disappointing everyone around me... but I'm still happy. I think I know why:

1. I'm taking my meds faithfully.
2. My boundaries are firm; knowing when to say no is easy for me, now.
3. I get to inhale the scent of an infant's head all day long. 
4. Experience has taught me that all-the-things always get done and worrying doesn't help them get done faster. 
5. My prayers have gotten more specific. 
6. Reading the Book of Mormon every day clears my mind. 
7. I don't spend time worrying and fretting over my imperfections, anymore (well, not as much!). 
8. I realize that I can't go back and change my mistakes or how I treated people and I can't go back and do things differently... I can only move forward and do better. This has made the conversations with myself in the shower a whole lot more positive. Ha! 
9. I have a lot more patience... more patience then I've ever had in my life and it has been incredibly hard-earned. 

Also, I could just be ovulating, so... LOL

Anyway, this is life right now. Nothing that exciting, just busy. Good busy. The kind of busy I prayed for years ago -- the kind of busy I used to resent. I like it.

Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to the Valentine's chocolate and all the birthday cake. Hooray for February!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Baby the Eighth: Birth Story

I chose to be induced with number 8 on December 14th, 2018. My mother came into town late on Wednesday (due to flight delays), and Friday morning, I headed to the hospital with Brandon and our oldest (she wants to be a nurse and she's already seen me give birth --my homebirth -- so I was cool with letting her come, again. Truth is, I would have been okay with a lot of the kids there, but hospital rules asked for two people, total, due to small spaces. Oh, well). 

I was nervous. 

I'm usually not nervous when giving birth. Not really, anyway. I was crazy confident with our 7th, but this time I was not. Reasons why: 
*I still didn't know why I wasn't supposed to do a home birth. Every test, every blood pressure check, every sonogram pointed to a very healthy baby and a very healthy me. There were zero complications. No reasons why I couldn't have given birth at home. Why did the Spirit tell me not to? What was going to happen during labor/delivery?
*This pregnancy was difficult; my body was exhausted. Giving birth is hard, hard, hard --how could I do this, again, when I was so tired? 
*I remembered how I felt when I had pushed out number 7. As soon as she was born, I said to myself, "I am NEVER doing this, again!" And here I was, doing this, again. 
*I hated being induced. (I've been induced 6 out of 8 pregnancies, now, and I still hate it.) I hated the monitors, I hated the pitocin, I hated feeling out of control. Why was I being induced, again? Why did I choose this, again? 

They started me on the tiniest bit of pitocin and around 9:30AM (I think?) the doctor came, checked me (I was a 4) and broke my water. Contractions weren't very strong. 

More pitocin, More contractions. 

I was doing okay, until the pitocin pain kicked in. The difference between regular contractions and pitocin contractions is the sharpness of the pain. Regular ones don't have pain-pain --they're not a sharp pain. They're more like... achy, tight, focused pain. Does this make sense? 

More pitocin, more contractions. 

Around 2pm? 1:45pm? I was not doing well with the pain. The nurse checked me and I told Brandon that if I was an 7 or 8, I could probably do this. But if I was a 5 or 6, I was seriously considering the epidural. 

This is huge, dear reader. I haven't had an epidural since my second baby, and that didn't even kick in until after the baby was born. I hate epidurals. I hated how helpless I felt being so numb from the waist, down. I've been anti-epidural (for me) since then, and I was proud of myself for never needing one. To even be considering an epidural was emotionally overwhelming for me. Maybe you like them, dear reader. Maybe you are thinking that I'm crazy and silly for even feeling this way, but this is me. I'm an unmedicated-prefers-homebirth kind of birthing mama. To even entertain the idea of an epidural went against all my philosophies and goals for myself. 

Well the nurse checked me and guess who was barely a 6? 

She left us alone so I could make a decision about the epidural. I cried and cried and told Brandon that I wanted it. He was so supportive. He would have gone along with anything I wanted and I was grateful for his confidence in me. 

The epidural lady came in and it took two tries to get it in right. The whole time I'm leaning forward on a pillow, the nurse holding my hand, my hands locked on her arms, feeling pitocin contractions, trying to keep my back rounded, doing everything I can to keep still, and tears just streaming down my face from all the pain. 

There was so much pain. 

When the epidural was done and I laid back down on the bed, I felt immediate relief. The pain of contractions were gone. I could feel my legs and feet. In fact, I could still even feel my cervix expanding and it was surreal how much I felt --without pain! I decided, within the first ten seconds, that I had made the right decision. 

The doctor came in about 2:45pm or so. I told him I was starting to feel some pressure, but nothing alarming. He asked if he could check and what in the world -- I was at a 10! Already! I'd had the epidural for only about 20-30 minutes at this point, so it felt wrong that I was suddenly ready to have the baby. But he said, "Okay, let's do this!" and they got everything ready. Then he told me to do a practice push (and I laughed because his psychology was pretty impressive. It wasn't a "practice" but for sure I can see how that would help other women to think they were "just practicing" when it truth, they were making progress!). 

I only pushed about 3 times before he crowned; the shoulders were very difficult to push out. It was so hard, dear reader. For perspective, I pushed out my 7th in 20 seconds. The fact that I had to focus and push so much more with him is evidence that he was much bigger. Still, no stitches needed (go me!). He was born at 3:15PM.

He weighed 10 pounds and 12 ounces and was 22 inches long!! He was my biggest baby by more than a pound. No wonder he was hard to push out!

Brandon and our oldest daughter were there, helping and supporting my legs. I was grateful for both of them and their calmness in the face of everything. 

I kept baby boy on me for an hour before they weighed him. He nursed; he was perfect! Delivering the placenta was the greatest feeling of relief, and honestly, within two hours, the epidural had worn off completely. I was able to walk to the bathroom when the time came. I was so impressed with the nature of the epidural --they've gotten better in the last 18 years! Who knew? My only complaint was the difficulty of putting it in.

The next day I made an important discovery. I suddenly knew why I wasn't supposed to do a homebirth. 
Because he was so big. 

I was induced one day before my due date. With homebirth, I would have gone over, since I usually do. Because I was so healthy, there would have been no real sign of his size, other than my big belly, but I also have a history of large placentas --we would have deducted that this was the reason for size. I would have continued to be pregnant for up to two weeks afterward. Then I may have had a 12 pound baby --maybe bigger. I may have had to be transported to a hospital. I don't know if I could push out such a large baby. Perhaps it would have caused complications. 

I will never know. But I felt, very strongly, that this was the reason we were supposed to be in a hospital --so I could be induced when I was, so he could be born when he was, so the complications would not even exist. 

(PAUSE: I'm so grateful my mom was here. She and my dad are serving a mission in Salt Lake City right now, and she left for almost a week to come and be with me and my family when baby boy was born. She was amazing and helped so much! I'm just sad her visit had to be so short.) 

I wish I could say that everything after that was fine. It wasn't as easy as I had hoped. He had to be tested for blood sugar (he was fine). His bilirubin was sky-high --they kept him in the nursery under lights for 24 hours, only to bring him to me for nursing. We had to go back for two more testings the first week before they deemed his bilirubin levels low enough. 

Nursing was horrid for a while. You know, dear reader, I had struggles with my first baby and nursing (took about a month to figure that one out) and then nothing but pleasant breastfeeding experiences with the next 5 kids! I had to get a lactation consultant with my 7th and it looked like I might need to with baby boy... I was horrified and determined to fix it before it got too bad. So, with a lot of determination, research, trial & error, pumping, supplemental feeding, and discovery of some really awesome cream, I was able to fix the latch, heal, and nurse my baby enough.

For almost 2 weeks, though, I thought I was going to have to give up nursing. The pain when he would try to latch was excruciating. And then I got thrush. 

Fun times!

But like with most things, the pain, the time, and the struggle was expounded and felt so much harder and took so much longer than was probably true. Reality is difficult to gauge when you are in a frustrating loop of physical and emotional pain. I cried a lot, every single day. I didn't know I had so many tears inside of me! I'm sure the hormonal fluctuations had a lot to do with it, but I don't think it would have been so much if I hadn't been struggling so much. However, like with that epidural, once the pain subsided, the relief was stronger than it would have been had I not experienced the pain in the first place. 

Thus it is with opposition. It teaches us what true joy, true relief, true gratitude feels like...

We've had other struggles, too. My healing was not as quick; my energy lagged a lot. The nursing issues compounded other physical problems. Not to mention the stress of getting Christmas all ready and wanting to sleep whenever I could. 

BUT! We are on the other side of the most difficult parts, I hope. He sleeps fairly well (although wants to be held all the time) and nursing is finally pleasant. I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to keep on top of life when the kids go back to school this week, but for now, we're surviving just fine. The older kids and Brandon have been wonderful and it's so nice to have big kids who can hold baby so I can shower, and who can take care of the other kids, too. It's hard having a lot of kids, but it's nice knowing they are willing to take care of each other when mom needs them to. 

And I love this baby boy. Love him. I'm so grateful God sent him to us, surprise and all! 

Photos to get you up to date: 

Best labor and delivery dress of all time!! You can find it here

Oldest daughter drew this. 

Isn't he the cutest baby of all time?!?! 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hardest Parts of Pregnancy

I've been blessed with good pregnancies, so don't take this as a complaining session. I'm just commenting on what's going on in my life. It's not meant to compare with anyone else; just writing my truth. No need to shoot me down because your experiences are different or worse than mine; I know we're all different and there are varying levels of good/bad. xoxo 

Taken last week (26 1/2 weeks gestation) in a dirty mirror!

Hardest part of pregnancy for me (this time. The 9th time (I did have one miscarriage in there, about 12 years ago), because the 8th time (7th child), I had gall bladder attacks, and that was pure hell. I haven't had anything like that this time, so far! *crossing fingers*):

*Psychotic dreams: I seriously can't tell half the time what was real and what was the dream. I imagine this is what it's like on acid or something, and I don't get why someone would do this to their brains on purpose. It's disconcerting and sometimes frustrating, like when it turns out Will Smith does not, in fact, have a huge thing for me (not that I would want him to! Just sayin' 😉). 

*Yeast infections: They are seriously the worst. Enough said. (And yes, I'm doing everything right --diet, ACV, garlic, probiotics, over-the-counter, etc.) One of the first signs of pregnancy for me is a yeast infection. Awesome. Yay. 

*Hemorrhoids: We'll just leave that TMI right there. 
(And I know why this and the yeast infections are pervasive, it has everything to do with gravity, the end.)

*Big-ness: I have the smallest torso of all time. I'm all legs. True fact: my first pregnancy altered my ribs physically forever and ever, amen. They have been pushed out (bones are malleable! As an adult?! Who knew!) and so all of my babies have enjoyed the freedom of going out even further. Baby is to the top of my rib cage down to my thighs and STILL sticks out. *shrug*

*Rude comments: THEY. JUST. WON'T. STOP. Even by well-meaning friends. Even by people who know better. And they're not trying to be rude, but every single day I'm answering the same stupid questions over and over and it starts to wear me down. And I am not bothered by the "when are you due?" questions (it's a genuine and perfectly legitimate question!), it's what follows that particular question almost every single time:
"Oh, wow. Wow! Really!? Not until then!?"
"Oh, my goodness, that's so... are you sure?!" 
"You already look so very big! Are you feeling okay???"
"Christmas time?! Are you sure it's not twins?" 

Why can't they say things like this, instead?

"How exciting!"
"You look great!"
"Oh, how fun!"
"Christmas babies are the best!" 
"You've got time to get things ready!" 

Why comment on my body, at all? I mean, ugh, people, yes, I get it. I'm HUGE. I know. (Even though I don't think I look as huge as they claim. I know I'll only get bigger! Look at that picture up there! I don't look like I'm "ready to pop" as an older mother recently said to me (how rude is that?!).) 
As I explained above, I have a small torso and so baby goes outward. I also have leftover fat from eight (seven living) previous pregnancies. I was also overweight when I got pregnant, so chances are, I'm not going to be thin! Isn't it crazy!? I'm an individual with an individual body that does it's own INDIVIDUAL THINGS!! Get over it, already! Stop pretending like my big body is some freak show and that you can't handle the fact that I actually know what's going on --for example, that I ACTUALLY KNOW MY OWN DUE DATE. As you can tell, I'm really getting tired of it, and it's getting harder to be polite and forgive (must. keep. trying.). 

This is why women become hermits when they're pregnant. It's not because we're tired, it's because we don't want to kill people. 

*Fatigue: Yes, I'm tired. But it honestly has less to do with pregnancy and more to do with my schedule. A schedule I have chosen and I love. Luckily, I'm able to nap every few days, so it works out. And I know when to take it slower and when to push myself.

My awesome kids (worth everything!)
*Knowledge of what's ahead: This is both the hardest and the sweetest part of pregnancy for me. I'm pretty experienced with giving birth (in a variety of situations, although I've yet to have a C-section, and I hope I never do), and so I know what's coming. Giving birth is not cake, friends. It's not the worst thing, ever, either (seriously, it's not), but it's a lot of work! I remember pushing out my last baby and I seriously thought, "I will NEVER do that, again." And I pushed her out in 20 seconds! It's not like it was the worst thing --it's just hard. And yes, I choose to give birth unmedicated (on purpose) because I actually think recovery is much harder if I don't. 

I also know how difficult recovery can be. I know all the "what-ifs" and such; I know what can go wrong, and I know what can be difficult to overcome. From the breastfeeding to the vaginal healing --it's not easy, friends. 

There's also the unknown: will everything be okay with baby boy? Will he be healthy? Will labor and delivery go well? Will we be able to leave the hospital when we want? Will he come Earth-side when expected? Will he even survive?

And then: sleepless nights, crazy schedules, diapers, and another human attached to me for another few years. Putting myself away for another little while in order to provide life to another little baby who needs me.

But! And this is the most important! I also know what is coming, too --a sweet, beautiful, heaven-smelling little bundle that I will love and cherish. Sacred moments in the night, nursing my baby boy, wondering how I could have been so blessed. There will be another first smile, first laugh, first crawl, first walk... another baby for all the older Savages to dote on with so much love and attention. There will be love... so much love. All the love that is possible --and it is strange, isn't it? To love someone so much, without knowing their personality, without knowing who they will become --just innocent, unadulterated, perfect love for a vulnerable, tiny, perfect little baby. He will be a part of our eternal family (already is!) and he will forever be one of us. 

I love God so much for giving us families. I love Him so much for giving me this baby (even though it's been hard to accept). I love Him forever for giving us a glimpse of what Heaven is like and what it will be like when we see Him, again. 

And now, I'm crying. ❤

So, see? All these things that are hard? This last thing makes all the other things worth it. (Even the rude comments!)

What are the hardest parts of pregnancy for you? 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

First Day of School




Dad teaches early morning seminary!

6th grade

4th grade

1st grade

No-grade! Staying home with mommy. 

First new outfit for the baby: 

Me, pregnant and stuff (from a few weeks ago; sorry for the bad lighting):

The End